Licitrasaid that “very few towns” don’t have feral cats, though it can be less noticeablein bigger municipalities. Within the last three years, he has been able tobring 15 municipalities on board to share the costs and benefits of the TNRprogram with the MCSPCA. EATONTOWN – This year, the Monmouth County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MCSPCA) on Wall Street will celebrate its 75th anniversary. ThatMonmouth County humane law enforcement agency had such great success that in2017 the state Legislature asked him to testify about why his model was succeedingat the MCSPCA, while other county SPCAs in the state were not. The answer? “Over theyears, the New Jersey State Legislature has spent thousands, tens of thousandsof hours writing animal cruelty law. And you left it statutorily responsible toa volunteer police department to enforce. How is that possible?” he recalledasking the state lawmakers. “You have professional career law enforcement doingthis job as opposed to the volunteers – who mean well – but 99 percent of themhave no law enforcement background,” he said. Licitra said it is important that the kittens and cats at the adoption center stay in a relaxed environment. Photo by Allison Perrine Rescuing Dogs from Korea and China Accordingto John Klein, they are “trying to change the world one dog at a time.” Housepets aren’t the only animals that require care. When in need, squirrels, deer,raccoons and more are brought to the shelter by animal control officers. Theanimals are then released back to the wild or to a wildlife rehabilitationcenter within 24 to 48 hours. Ross Licitra, director of the Monmouth County SPCA. Photo by Allison Perrine The spacewould be for wildlife rehabilitation and public use, like education programsfor children. You have to educate children when they’re young enough to understandthat wildlife is just as important as pets, Licitra said. Setting the Standard Thatbackground helped him mold the MCSPCA and its humane law enforcement agencyinto what it is today. He makes sure the MCSPCA’s agency works closely with theMonmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and that its humane law enforcement agencyis comprised of paid personnel, not volunteers, to guarantee calls areanswered. In other counties with volunteer agencies, some calls go unansweredwhen volunteers are unavailable. He made this possible with the help of SheriffShaun Golden, Arnone and the county prosecutor. With the help of No Dogs Left Behind, a global animal rescue organization, and local volunteers John and Robin Klein, the MCSPCA has taken two trips to China to rescue dogs from the Yulin Dog Meat Festival. The festival is held annually during the summer solstice and runs for about 10 days. According to No Dogs Left Behind, about 10,000 to 15,000 dogs are killed and consumed each festival, held in Yulin, Guangxi, China. Dogs are often stolen from their owners, packed onto trucks and sent to their death. Afterbeing rescued, the dogs are brought to the MCSPCA center in Eatontown. They aretaken care of, evaluated and eventually put up for adoption to a loving home. Theorganization exists to protect and advocate for domestic pets, wildlife anddomestic livestock within Monmouth County. Lately, its mission has expanded.With its partners in animal welfare, the MCSPCA wants to step in to save animalsfrom high-kill shelters throughout the southern United States and Puerto Ricoand from the meat trade in Korea and China, and lend a hand in rescue effortsduring natural disasters. Afterthat, the state Legislature disbanded the NJSPCA’s volunteer humane lawenforcement division and mandated that every county prosecutor’s office have anSPCA law enforcement division, like at the MCSPCA, Licitra said. With that,chief humane law enforcement officers – like Licitra – had to be appointed ineach county SPCA, and each municipal police department had to appoint a humanelaw enforcement officer. Additionally, all humane officers appointed had to goback to the police academy for training. The dogs were quarantined, all canine and feline adoptions were halted and veterinary services stopped. “The decision to close the shelter for adoptions and our Vogel Veterinary Care Center during one of the busiest times of the year for us was difficult, but done out of pure concern for not only the health and well-being of all our dogs, but of genuine concern for all dogs in the Monmouth County area and beyond,” said Licitra in a statement posted on the MCSPCA website Dec. 20. Beforeassuming his role as the executive director of the MCSPCA and the chief humaneofficer for the county, Licitra was a police officer. He worked locally forfive years and later joined the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office in 1986where he handled narcotics, gang and homicide cases. He was an officer for 30years. TheMCSPCA operates on a 30 percent profit margin. The revenue it earns helps payfor medical services at the shelter, which runs about $800,000 annually. “Thebiggest challenge for us is always funding and space,” he said. The shelter’sclosure at the holidays is expected to have a negative effect on its balancesheet. Trap, Neuter and Release, or TNR, is a program designed to control the feral cat population or, as Licitra calls them, “community cats.” Animal control personnel visit municipalities that participate in the MCSCPA’s TNR program and bring stray cats to the shelter, neuter or spay them, give them shots and clip their ear tips – which does not hurt them, he said. Then they release the stray cats back where they came from. If they are kittens, the MCSPCA keeps them and adopts them out. If they are house cats that have been abandoned, they also adopt them out. “Theytorture the dogs as much as they can and then kill them. They say it makes themeat taste better when they’re tortured,” said Licitra. Theclosest wildlife rehabilitation center is in Mercer County, but Licitra saidhe’s working on bringing one to Monmouth County with the help of Freeholder TomArnone. “The county has so many great parks and in one of the parks we’d find abuilding and we’d pay to have it all renovated,” he said. “Long Branch has been our most successful,” said Licitra. He estimated they have helped over 500 cats in Long Branch alone. It’s importantto note, however, that the MCSPCA is not funded by the county. “We are anagency created by state law and authority, but we’re self-funded,” saidLicitra. Theshelter takes in animals from New Jersey and high-kill shelters in southernstates and Puerto Rico. But recently, it turned its efforts overseas to rescueanimals in China and Korea from being tortured and killed for human consumption. Community Cats Theshelter recently rescued nine dogs from China that would have otherwise beensent to the festival. They also rescued an additional nine at the beginning of2019. In 2018, the shelter partnered with the Humane Society for the UnitedStates (HSUS) and rescued dogs from Korea that were slated for humanconsumption. The Wildlife Room TheMCSPCA works closely with the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife. Ithandles regulatory incidents involving fishing, hunting and more. When animalcruelty or inhumane activity is involved, the MCSPCA steps in. In 2020,the MCSPCA will officially be the “first ever” to receive state budgetaryfunding – $25,000 – for the TNR program, thanks to state Sen. Vin Gopal, saidLicitra. He also credited Arnone as being a big supporter of the MCSCPA’s TNRprogram. This article originally appeared in the Jan. 2-9, 2020 print edition of The Two River Times. He went on to say the affected dogs were improving and he thanked the public for their “incredible amount of support.” The center reopened on Jan. 2, 2020. Theshelter ended 2019 on a sad note after it had to close for several weeks duringits busiest time of year to treat dogs with H3N2 influenza, or canine flu, anextremely contagious disease that likely arrived with a rescue transport,according to Ross Licitra, executive director of the MCSPCA.